Youth Crime (Edinburgh West)

Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 2:15 pm, 22nd March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to tackle youth crime in the Edinburgh West parliamentary constituency. (S2O-12481)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

A good range of multi-agency actions is being taken to prevent and address youth disorder in Edinburgh West, which Margaret Smith represents. For example, the Drylaw neighbourhood centre offers a variety of provisions that are aimed at young people who might otherwise become involved in low-level antisocial behaviour. It also runs targeted services for young people in the youth justice system, the aim of which is to support those young people and to challenge and change their behaviour.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I support what the minister said. Youth action teams are doing a great job.

The minister may be aware that, at the weekend, a group of youths carried out a particularly bad attack on a 12-year-old in my constituency. That attack has shocked the community and reminded all of us that young people are often the victims of young offenders. Does she agree that young people could have a place on youth panels and that positive peer pressure could be used to try to reduce youth offending? Such an approach would be rather like the approach that has been taken in the United States, where there is a positive recidivism rate as a result of young people helping other young people.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I cannot comment on the specific case—I am sure that Margaret Smith does not expect me to. I very much recognise the fact that young people can be the victims of crime; indeed, that understanding was central to work that we have done in taking forward our agenda on antisocial behaviour. Often, young people cannot access the provisions that are made in communities because of the actions of a small minority.

I understand what Margaret Smith says, and I am sure that she is genuine in her approach to involving young people in tackling peer pressure and improving behaviour. There is a place for that. However, I would be concerned if that was to take anything away from the notion that the criminal justice system ought to deal effectively with those who breach the law. In cases of people being assaulted, bullied or harassed, we must ensure that the processes are robust.